UFC Fight Night 175 lacks talent, depth

By Lou Finocchiaro  (Point Spread Weekly) 

May 13, 2020 12:17 AM
Anthony Smith (right)
© Imagn

Fresh off Saturday’s UFC 249 comes Wednesday’s Fight Night 175, again from Jacksonville, Fla. While the whole 249 card was composed of talent worthy of main events, Wednesday’s slate offers fighters with less notoriety outside the main events.

Gamblers have been starved for bettable sports. It’s important to allow the flow of these pent-up funds to hit the market before moving on these bouts if maximum value is the desire. For example, see last week’s late value on Justin Gaethje + 180/+ 220 and Henry Cejudo, who got as low as -180.

Here’s a fight-by-fight look at Fight Night 175.

Anthony Smith -180 vs. Glover Teixeira + 160, light-heavyweight (205 pounds), main event   

Teixeira is 40. And 2020 has taught me that there is little reason to side with an aged fighter clearly competing beyond his prime, as fighters with a youth advantage of more than four years win 63% of the time in the UFC.

Smith is nine years younger than Glover, has slight reach advantages and is 2 inches taller.

If both were 31, I believe Glover would have a ground advantage as well as a striking edge. But Wednesday night is reality, and the reality is that though Teixeira remembers how to execute, his body won’t allow it.

I view Smith as well worthy of favorite status, and anything lower than -175 will interest me as there seems to be a little Teixeira favor in the market.

Ovince Saint Preux -140 vs. Ben Rothwell + 120, heavyweight (265 pounds), co-main event

The intrigue lies in Saint Preux moving up from light-heavyweight, most likely because of short notice, to fight a natural heavyweight. But Rothwell has looked slow and washed up, going 1-2 since March 2019. Even so, it takes big engines time to warm up, and Rothwell has said his performances have improved in each bout, and in that he is correct.

Quickness, precision, speed and athleticism benefit all fighters. And Saint Preux, 37, will own advantages in all those areas. His previous opponents make up a deeper, more competitive set. Saint Preux has hinted that his plan is to use movement and a 2-inch reach advantage in this fight.

Rothwell averages 3.38 significant strikes landed per minute through his career, while his opponent averages 2.49. However, while Saint Preux allows 3.97, Rothwell allows 6.36.

Saint Preux’s plan is to outpoint and beat Rothwell from the outside. His physical skill set will allow him to expose Rothwell’s lack of movement and strike defense. If this bout follows that plan, it will be a one-sided decision.

Lean Over 2.5 + 120

Drew Dober -115 vs. Alex Hernandez -105, lightweight (155 pounds)

Hernandez hit the UFC in early 2018 and caught fire quickly. After a couple of noteworthy wins, the striker made the mistake of believing his own hype when he entered the Octagon against a motivated and focused Cowboy Cerrone. Hernandez was dominated that evening after shooting off his mouth like a fool for weeks. Off that loss, the San Antonio native was awarded a gift-wrapped decision against Brazilian Francisco Trinaldo in a fight most believe he lost — in his hometown.

Dober and Hernandez are almost mirror images of one another, though Hernandez does have slight advantages in youth and reach. Dober, who trains with Justin Gaethje at Elevation MMA in Colorado, has won five of his last six fights. Hernandez is rated 15th, while Dober is outside the rankings, so Dober is looking forward to this opportunity.

This fight is lined tightly, but Hernandez has yet to prove he belongs in the Octagon against a fighter of Dober’s mettle. This should be an absolute thrill to watch as these two will meet in the middle and simply throw down.

At Tuesday’s weigh-in, Dober was the second man on the scale, smiling and ready to begin his rehydration. Hernandez was the absolute last fighter to weigh in. That tells me that not only does Dober have a two-hour advantage in recovery but that Hernandez had to spend those two hours toiling to take off the last ounces.

Dober’s physicality, maturity, mental toughness, fight camp and recent body of work indicate that he is ascending to top-10 status, and Hernandez is in his way.

Dober -115

Ricky Simon -165 vs. Ray Borg + 150, bantamweight (145 pounds)

Borg has had problems making weight at 125 pounds but was the first on the scale at weigh-ins. He also has undergone numerous personal issues recently. Borg is a very accomplished wrestler by style but will be towered over by Simon, who will have several physical advantages.

Alpha Male’s Simon comes in off losses to top bantamweight talent in Rob Font and Urijah Faber, in which there is no shame. I know the Faber loss still bothers Simon, who is the larger and longer fighter. Simon could be on the cutting board should he drop this bout, and I recognize desperation as a great motivator in a tight fight.

Marvin Vettori -180 vs. Karl Roberson + 160, middleweight (185 pounds)

Roberson sauntered out to the scale four minutes into the weigh-ins and missed his limit by 1.5 pounds. Jeremy Stephens pulled this form of blatant cheating for advantage last week, and in recent months fighters missing weight have actually won more bouts than they have lost. The nominal percentage of Roberson’s purse (20/30%) going to Vettori as a penalty is clearly not enough to deter these fighters. No matter, Vettori is now even more focused.

Roberson is an inch taller but has faced a far lesser quality of opponent. He averages 3.8 significant strikes per minute while allowing only 1.81. A kickboxer by background, Roberson’s 53% takedown defense will prove critical to his chances, as Vettori has submitted opponents in 62% of his wins.

Vettori has been defeated only by Antonio Carlos Junior and current champion Israel Adesanya since 2014. But Vettori has had numerous cancellations since early March, and the effect must be acknowledged. Whether that adds fuel to an already burning fire we don’t know, but coupled with the weight miss I can assure you Vettori will arrive at this fight very agitated.

I believe now even more than before weigh-ins that the more explosive, physical pressure of Vettori and his 1.75 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time will be too much for Roberson.

Philipe Lins -160 vs. Andrei Arlovski + 140, heavyweight (265 pounds)

Arlovski, 41, is a famous, proud and decorated fighter, but his days of relevance are as long gone as his chin. He’s in there for no other reason than to have his pelt placed on Lins’ mantel — though Arlovski, like most older fighters, is the last to know how he is regarded. Besides vast experience, Arlovski’s only hope is to launch one of his slow-motion left hooks and hope it hits.

Lins, who won last year’s PFL heavyweight tournament, will be seven years the younger man. But the power puncher will need to be measured early, for Arlovski will hold height and reach advantages. And in a heavyweight clash, anything can happen based on one massive strike.

Lins opened -170, and should this number continue to drop, his value increases.

Lins via KO/TKO + 140 also is in consideration against a fighter who has a balsa wood beak.

Thiago Moises -110 vs. Michael Johnson -110, lightweight (155 pounds)

Fascinating matchup. Johnson, a southpaw, will have slight height and reach advantages and a vastly superior depth of experience. Johnson (19-15) is slightly taller and longer than Moises. He will strive to use movement to complement his striking and try to keep the power attacker at bay.

Moises (12-4) is eight years younger at 25 and is improving fight by fight despite his 1-2 UFC result. The Brazilian is a skilled BJJ practitioner besides being a pure power striker who is explosive and violent.

Moises’ previous three fights, especially his three-round decision loss to Russia’s Damir Ismagulov, prove he should be regarded as very dangerous in this spot off the bounce against the inconsistent Johnson.

Moises has little name recognition and Johnson has quite a bit, which explains why Moises has gone from -140 at open to -110.

Moises -110

Sijara Eubanks -380 vs. Sarah Moras + 320, women’s bantamweight (135 pounds)

Both are on the proverbial cutting board and each is desperate as victory means remaining relevant in a weight class dominated by Amanda Nunes. Eubanks (4-4) will pressure Moras (6-5) and try to take her out with strikes and physicality. When Eubanks wins, she wins via KO/TKO (40%) or decision (60%).

Moras is the more well-rounded fighter, averaging a submission per 15 minutes of fight time. But she’s also a bit awkward. Eubanks’ previous competition is the only reason she is favored, but in no way can I justify her as -380.

Potential lunch-money wager if this line keeps rising.

Omar Morales -185 vs. Gabriel Benitez + 165, lightweight (155 pounds)

Benitez might have to compromise opportunity to earn for his family because he has competed as a featherweight his whole career yet now steps up to 155 pounds. His last bout was in August 2019, and he was inactive for over a year before that. Benitez is primarily a boxer/kickboxer by background but will have an experience edge here.

Morales is a legitimate lightweight, and though he’s 34, he’s still developing in this sport, as witnessed by his 8-0 record. He’ll have slight reach advantages and will be the taller, thicker man. Benitez is taking this fight at a disadvantage, which tells me he needs to earn.

Morales is worthy chalk.

Hunter Azure -180 vs. Brian Kelleher + 160, featherweight (145 pounds)

At 32, Kelleher is a UFC veteran. His 20-10 professional record highlights his greatest advantage, experience. Kelleher’s forte lies in his ground game and submission ability. He’s not overly large for the bantamweight division and takes this fight at 145 pounds, most likely because both men have been given short notice.

Azure (8-0) is a rising prospect. What he lacks in cage experience is overcome with a 2-inch height advantage, plus edges of 5 inches in the arms and 1 inch in the legs. He’s also four years younger. Azure’s wrestling is his foundation, and he has been working successfully to develop a more complete striking arsenal.

Azure’s ability to carry the extra 10 pounds supplements his substantial wrestling advantage against a smaller yet capable man. He’ll be more effective in controlling Kelleher, especially as this fight wears on and Kelleher is forced to deal with Azure’s unrelenting pressure.

Azure -180

Chase Sherman -170 vs. Ike Villanueva + 150, heavyweight (265 pounds)

Sherman left the UFC after dubious results, highlighted by a 2016 loss to Augusto Sakai. Sherman had been fighting regionally in Florida leading up to this callback to fill a position on this card. He offers power, shoddy defense and little else. He’ll be 2 inches taller and have a 5-inch reach advantage besides being six years younger than his debuting opponent.

Villanueva, a 36-year-old light-heavyweight, is getting an unexpected chance at the UFC on relatively short notice and up a class in weight. He has beaten ex-UFC competition in two of his last three regional wins, and his losses have been mostly via submission. Sherman has no submissions on his record. This fight is hardly of UFC caliber, but Villanueva did open -150 and I tend to respect the bookmakers.

I hate to say this, but Villanueva is getting very close to strike range.

Last weekend’s releases on Justin Gaethje + 165 and Michelle Waterson + 130 split, leaving a positive .65-unit profit.

The parlay position on Cejudo -210 remains open and will be filled in a future card. To date, profitability stands: 8-1 + 9.35u, with the Cejudo open parlay in pocket.

I’ll have another full breakdown for UFC Fight Night 176 on Friday via VSiN.


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